Sheriff reaches out on D.C. trip

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By Alice Du Pont

A trip to the national’s capital didn’t get Gadsden County Sheriff Morris A. Young an audience with President Barack Obama, but it did get him a meeting with Florida senators Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, as well as a private audience with one of the president’s top staff members.

“It was a successful trip. I was in Washington to attend the National Sheriff’s Association Annual meeting. My goal was to reach out to Florida lawmakers on a face-to-face basis,” he said of the five-day trip.

Young presented to two projects to Rubio and Nelson that will require substantial funds. First he wanted to replace the antiquated communications system that is more than 25 years old. He speculated that communications would cost between $4 million and $6 million dollars and a new jail would cost about $25 million.

However, he told both Rubio and Nelson in separate sessions, that it cost the county $46 per day to feed and house each inmate. With medical care, that cost could rise as much as $120 per day. One way small counties have been able to mitigate the cost is by housing federal inmates.

Young explained his proposals in detail and he said both promised to take a closer look.

It was the first time Young had met with Rubio, who admitted he had never been to the county and didn’t know very much about it. While Rubio is a Republican and Gadsden is a large Democrat county, he wasn’t going to shy away from a meeting because of political affiliations.

“He represents all of Florida, not just Republicans. It’s like me; I’m not going to not respond to a citizen because they’re Republicans. I’m the sheriff for the entire county; that’s how it works,” Young said.

 He said he has visited with Nelson several times on his trips to Washington.

Jobs were also on his list of concerns. He said he explained the need for jobs in this county due to layoffs from large and small companies.

“People who don’t have jobs are more likely to commit crimes because they have to live somehow. I have people coming in here every day asking me for a job or asking me to call an employer for them,” he said.

While there, he also met with Congressman Steve Southerland and the ranking Florida Democrat Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“I went with the idea of looking for federal dollars,” he said. “I was non-stop the entire time I was there,” including meeting with the White House staff who gave him a tour.

“I told them about Gadsden County and extended an invitation to them and the president to visit Gadsden County,” Young said, adding “this was the beginning.”

 From him, lawmakers wanted his take on assault weapons and immigration.

 “I told them that I compare an assault rifle to a Corvette. There is no need to have a car that can go 160 per hour when the highest speed limit is 75 miles per hour. There is no need to have an assault weapon to hunt or protect your home. I support the ban on assault weapons. I have officers who only have a handgun and a rifle patrolling the entire county,” he said.

 As for immigration, he said Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has become a little more lenient because most undocumented immigrants only want to work and raise their families. In Gadsden County the problem isn’t as bad as it was at one point in the past.

 Young is not leaving any stone unturned. Last week he had lunch with Gov. Rick Scott and discussed his idea for a jail that will house federal inmates and have enough room for local inmates.

 “I’ve been working on this for six months,” he said, holding up detailed plans of his proposals, but said he isn’t ready to make everything public yet.